May 18th, 2020 – Victoria Day

Disney + is showing Nature shows through their DisneyNature brand.  They made a big deal about how Elephants is being narrated by Megan Markle.  For me this was more a detractor than an incentive to watching.  It was released at the same time as Dolphin Reef.  I do marvel at the pictures that they are able to find.   As I watch more live safaris from Wild Earth, it is so difficult to predict where the animals will be, let alone getting the light and them doing something movie worthy.   Then to wrap a human story around the footage makes it even more challenging.   For me, te weakest element of these shows are the “human story”, because they are giving human emotion and motivations to animals.   Who’s to say what an elephant is thinking or how they are feeling?   I have little doubt that they do both (think and feel) but I doubt that our interpretation through the words in these pictures are accurate.    The attraction for this film was a recommendation from my eldest son, and also the fact that these elephants are filmed not far away from Kruger National Park in South Africa where Wild Earth films.    Some of the pictures are breathtaking.   I hope you have HD and a large TV screen.   The aerial shots of a large herd are amazing.   Some of the activities of the elephants which I won’t spoil by revealing are remarkable.   So to that end, these stories are worth seeing and spending some time with nature.   The story, forget about it.   The little elephant who is named (as they mostly all are) is cute, and is a youngster so they are just fun to watch anytime.   So in the end, there was no need to pay the former Prince Harry’s wife, and they could have had virtually anyone narrate this.

Much to Alison’s surprise, I revealed Saturday night that I have never seen 1998’s Coen brothers movie The Big Lebowski!   It is on Netflix, and is a good laugh and a lot of fun, in a dark comedy kind of way.   There is an impressive cast with Jeff Bridges starring as “Dude”, and his good friends John Goodman impressively playing his intense Vietnam veteran bowling buddy and Steve Buscemi who is generally told by Goodman to keep his mouth shut.   The entire premise of the film is a mistaken identity, where the unemployed Dude, a hippy pot-smoking flower child, has his hom broken into and he strong armed by two guys looking for money.   The one bad guy urinates on his front hall carpet.   Rather than just throw out the carpet and move on, Dude is convinced to confront the man who shares his last name, Lebowski, and for which all the confusion was started.   He wants money for the carpet, but is rebuffed then asked to do something that only he can do.   The story moves on from there with good writing and performances.   Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro and others are here.   I think that Goodman’s performance was really good.   He is an over-the-top guy who has anger issues, and obvious unresolved Veteran issues from his Viet Nam experience.   He creates more problems than he creates, “am I wrong”?   Bridges too is very good, and sounds less like he has marbles in his mouth, which I think his tongue is still growing in his mouth as he ages.   But it was a good laugh, at a time when we can all use a good laugh.   There are certainly dark aspects to the story, but I kept realizing that this entire story takes place because someone pissed on his rug, and it is a continuing source of laughter. (This is also the high point of the career for later forgotton Tara Reid of American Pie notoriety).   I was shocked to see her here.

Finally I did finish the second season of Narcos, with the story of Pablo Escobar.   Just wow.   It was well done.   The complexity of this cocaine cartel issue was remarkable even as the walls start coming down all around Escobar.   His focus shifts to getting his family out of Columbia so he can wage a war against the usurpers (a ruthless group of former members of the cartel and some right wing extremist mercenaries).    Much of the story is true, as the real life Steve Murphy and Pena were part of the group advising on the project.   As they say in this series “you can’t make this stuff up”.   I am glad I watched.  I know that the Murphy character doesn’t appear in Season 3, so I am less enthused to watch it.   Incidentally, the real life wife of Murphy was said to have “one small gripe” with the series as she says she would have never have left Steve in Columbia herself (and she didn’t) but it made sense to have the story go that way for dramatic purposes.   Fun to watch, and scary too.



May 11th, 2020 – Mother’s Day weekend

My eldest son has been told by numerous people that he is actor Ansel Elgort’s doppelganger.   He channeled this fully a couple years ago dressing up as the young Elgort from his movie Baby Driver.

Baby Driver Ansel Elgort Jacket | Ansel elgort, Ansel elgort baby ...

Elgort is in the new movie The Goldfinch.   His character, Theo Decker, in the movie has had a rough life, which is the understatement of the day.   Every where he turns it seems that people have disappointed him or betrayed him.   The story is rather convoluted to be precise as it jumps around in time, and as one watches it is more fantastic that all these things could happen to one person.    In summary, as a young boy Theo is at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art with his Mom, when  a bomb goes off.   His Mom and many others are among the killed.   His parents are estranged, and he has nowhere to go, and decides to stay with Nicole Kidman (a fate worse than death as far as this guy is concerned).   She is married with a few children of various ages, the eldest being an obnoxious jerk.   Another is roughly the same age as young Theo.  The Mom is kind to him.  As the young Theo gets more comfortable in his surroundings his estranged father shows up.   He is moved from NYC to Las Vegas where Dad (played by Luke Wilson) shows numerous ways that parents can betray their kids.   I won’t continue further with the plot as I said earlier, it was convoluted.   It turns back onto itself, and the theme is really one of betrayal and looking to preserve that which should last.   Finn Wolfhard is part of the cast and seems to be everywhere with Stranger Things and IT, always seeming to play similar characters.  He’s an odd looking duck.  Add a Russian accent here (poorly done) and he helps to move the story along in unexpected ways.   I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the Goldfinch is a painting which was on the wall at the museum.   For me the challenge was believing that all these things can happen to this one young man.   The last act is adding a thriller aspect to it, which flies in the face of the rest of the film, which was a family drama.  I am using the word “thriller” in its most generous form.   I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat.   On the whole a bit disjointed and disappointing.   Maybe the novel read better.    One can always hope.   Many books don’t translate well to film.  This may be just one of them.

Downton Abbey is on Crave now.  Just released.   This is the film and not the series that was available on Netflix and other streaming services.  The series began in 2010 and had 52 episodes on 6 seasons.   It is a modern retelling of the British series Upstairs, Downstairs in theme and not translating those stories here (that show is unwatched by me).  The movie is a continuation of the last story of the Crawley family starting from 1912 after the sinking of the Titanic.   This is quality UK based TV with good performances, a gorgeous chateau and people-driven drama.  I have to admit that Dame Maggie Smith steals scene after scene with her performance as the matriarch of the Crawley family.   Her son, Robert The Earl of Grantham, is the head of household at a time when things are changing dramatically in UK society.   Women’s roles are changing, young people don’t want to be confined to traditional roles and the house struggles with being able to maintain staff and a way of life.   The movie looks to have an event involve all the people in the household.   Do you need to watch all the TV series to see the movie?  It helps.   You’ll know the history of some of the characters and understand why certain events can prove to be a source of angst for them.   Notably it would help to know that young Tm Branson is part of the “upstairs” part of the house, but in the series started as a chauffeur in the “downstairs” part amongst the help where the youngest Crowley daughter Sybill fell in love with him.   He is Irish and has distinct opinions about the British occupation in Ireland.   Sybill passes away in child birth.  In this movie the drama is created by all involved by the notice of arrival of the Royal Family arriving at Downton for a dinner, parade and overnight visit.   There is an emotional component near the end that brings the story together that I won’t divulge.   Generally I found the many characters having to be dealt with in a two hour film can’t compare to 52 episodes that have come before.   Do we really need to see the story of Thomas Barrow as the now Head Butler?   It added very little for me.   The engaged Daisy story didn’t add much either for me.   In the end I enjoyed this, and brought together a few of the actors that were in Imitation Game.   That was good to see as well, like Tom Branson.

This week I finished watching season 1 of Narcos.   Set in Columbia in the early 80s, you see the beginning of the cocaine cartel shipping their product off to a voracious US customer base.   The focus is on Pablo Escobar, the kingpin and Don who heads a coalition of drug producers and dealers and drive astronomical profits along the way.   He is the ideas guy and brains of the operation.   He is ruthless.   He has no soul.   He has his ambition in mind and the idea that he should and could become the saviour for his country Columbia.   I gave some background last week.   The ending of Season 1 takes place at the luxurious castle acting as a prison for Escobar and his men.   The army has been sent in by the President, but it is unclear just how motivated that they are to finish the job.   The cliffhanger is whether or not Escobar has survived the activities at the castle.    It is interesting to watch.   Well acted.  It shows a place where no one is safe.   It is a police state where an ongoing war with heavily armed drug thugs makes every day life unimaginable.    I cannot imagine being an ordinary citizen in Columbia in those times.   Season 2 continues the story with the characters who manage to survive the ending of Season 1.    I will continue watching.

May the 4th Be with You 2020

This is worth sharing (because it just is)….

This was a trying week for viewing.   I had said a while back when I saw the original Stephen King IT that I didn’t particularly like IT.  I didn’t need to see another IT, and IT wasn’t worth spending time to trying and find another.   I will note that I didn’t pay for IT.  I am thankful for IT.  And then along comes IT Chapter 2.   If it wasn’t for Jessica Chastain, then I wouldn’t even consider this film.   I had recalled hearing a story that the Producer (or someone putting together the sequel) had specifically targeted Jessica for the starring role.  She would play the Beverly Marsh character, the only female amongst a group of self-called Losers.   They defeated the ever-so-creepy Pennywise but there were hints that he could potentially return in another 27 years.   Well, we didn’t have to wait 27 years for the sequel.   Along with Chastain, they add James McAvoy, Bill Hader and the cast of young actors.  It is a good ensemble.   Yet the story is a mess.    The older group is shown making a promise to come back together as kids should the need arise, and the need has now arisen.   Pennywise has come back to Derry Maine.  They return, and then crazy things start happening (shared hallucinations, bizarre situations etc).  It seems that these friends need to each find an artifact which then they need to bring to some native Indian ceremony.  None of this makes much sense.  But the more one ponders it, the more it becomes apparent that it doesn’t matter.   This is a movie that is mind candy, and it is meant to scare you a little, and entertain you a little.  For me, it does neither.   By the midpoint I had to ask myself why Chastain and other older cast members would sign up for this.    If they would read about the Pennywise scene when they are underground (wherever that scene is) then they must have had some second thoughts.   Maybe they are doing what Michael Caine used to when he signed on to Jaws: The Revenge, and just take the money.   Who knows?   By the end, I just shook my head and acknowledged I just spent time that I won’t ever get back.  By the way, the origin story of Pennywise, as was explained here, was bullshit.   Plain and simple.   I won’t spoil this, but frankly there isn’t a heckuva lot to spoil.   I am hopeful that there can’t be a Chapter 3.   Another 27 years to pass and it will be Pennywise terrifying the seniors home.   Ugh!

Saturday night was Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw starring Jason Statham and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.   The Fast the Furious franchise, which started back in 2001 with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, had a simple premise; our audience wants to see hot girls and guys driving hot cars.    It began with a young cop, in a Point Break scheme, try and infiltrate a local group who street races.  It worked.   Eight movies later, even despite the tragic death of Walker in 2013 in a car accident, it still rakes in the money.    The formula for me lost the cars in this latest edition, save the McLaren 720S which Staham drives through the streets of London.   Having said that, I cannot believe for a moment that Statham, Johnson and then actress Vanessa Kirby (she played Princess Margaret in The Crown very well) would fit into that car.   No way.  But it is me, once again bringing realism into fantasy and light.   This, like IT Chapter 2 is mind candy, mental bubble gum.   The measuring stick becomes, “were you entertained?”  For me, when the realism goes off the charts, then my entertainment value lessens.   If I am sitting in my chair or on the couch and mentally (or sometimes vocally) saying “Yea right!” then it begins to fall apart.  Of course there are space and time travel movies that entertain.   It doesn’t mean that I am always consistent, but I retain my right to enjoy what entertains me on a subjective basis.   For example, in Hobbs and Shaw, these two agents from the US and British Intelligence who hate one another have to try and stop a pandemic virus from wiping out the world.  Plenty of eye candy for the ladies with the aforementioned Statham, Johnson and then Idris Elba.  The two leads have some insults and banter between them.  From a male perspective, Kirby is striking but very young, as well as the Russian spy played by Eiza González.  But there isn’t much else.   As far as cars goes, the Samoa angle didn’t really work, and the linking cars attached to a helicopter driving along a cliff, didn’t work at all.   It rivals Tom Cruise in “Ending” Impossible exploding forward inside the chunnel on a helicopter onto the back of a train.   But once again, the question remains “was I entertained?”   There were a couple good laughs.   But I was thankful that I didn’t spend real money on it as it was on Crave.

Finally I have started watching Netflix series Narcos.  It shows the story of Pablo Escobar, the Columbian drug lord who ran the Cocaine Cartel.   The politics in Columbia are well on display and scary to fathom.  Imagine having a relatively poor economy with mostly poor people and civil servants (police, government etc) who then have a astoundingly rich cocaine business take over.   The power is consolidated in a few who have no value for human life.   At one point, there is an offer made by Ecobar to be allowed back into Columbia and in exchange he will “eliminate the country’s debt”!!  The Tom Cruise American Made film is a side light, and dealt with in a short while in one episode.   The main character on the US police side is a young DEA officer played by Boyd Holbrook as Steve Murphy.   He is good along with his partner.   They are trying to navigate a world where there is corruption and death at every turn.   The US government involvement remains questionable, and this all rolls into the Oliver North (Iran-Contra affair) and Nicaragua getting involved.   I am about halfway through Season 1, but it is entertaining.  It is interesting.  It does reveal some history in a part of the world that I don’t know very well.   I will continue to watch….